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Released April 16, 2003

RELATIONSHIPS KEY TO BUSINESS SUCCESS, EXECUTIVE SAYS

HATTIESBURG - Counting down his top 10 "Business Lessons not Learned at Southern Miss - or Harvard," George Newton revealed to students at The University of Southern Mississippi Wednesday his ultimate secret for a successful career.

The answer? Relationships.

"The most powerful force in the world is relationships," said Newton, who returned to Joseph Greene Hall for the first time since receiving his accounting degree from Southern Miss 33 years ago.

Newton, president and chief executive officer of Burrus Investment Group, Inc, returned to his alma mater as part of the Executives-on-Campus Lectures Series sponsored by the College of Business Administration. He told the audience that in an ever-changing world, security is a scarce commodity. Rather than fearing change, however, students should embrace it, he said.

"When I left school 33 years ago, McDonald's hadn't sold its first billion hamburgers, and there was no Microsoft or even computers," Newton said. "In fact, when I started out as an accountant, there were 120 of us in an office and we didn't even have one calculator.

"If you imagine the change in the last 30 years, just think of how phenomenal the change will be in the next 30 years," he added.

Among Newton's advice was the admonition to protect ones business resources. "Always take care of what you've got before you spend resources on something new," he said.

Newton currently serves as managing partner of his company's various hotel investments and real estate investment partnerships. These investments include 10 hotels with approximately 2,400 rooms and suites, including the Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans; DoubleTree Hotels in New Orleans, Denver and Boulder, Colo.; the Embassy Suites; and Holiday Inn in Brentwood and Nashville, Tenn.

Newton said an invaluable asset in today's business world is the ability to negotiate. To be the best at negotiating, one must "always study" and engage in "relentless preparation," he said.

"If it's too good of a deal, where you get too much and the other gets too little, then they won't have the right incentive," Newton said. "Business should be like a banquet where everybody enjoys what's going on. If it's good for you, it should be good for them, too."

In addition to warning students to "never do business with bad people," Newton advised that being happy should mean more than making money.

"About six years ago I stopped taking a salary," he said. "I realized my time was more important than money. Once you're working for positive achievements rather than for money, you've achieved real success."

In the end, Newton said the "universal key" to business success is fostering relationships. The earlier one starts doing that, he said, the better.

"The more I'm around it, the more I'm convinced that truism is the answer - relationships are the most powerful thing," he said. "And you can start now, with professors, or other students working on a project, because you never know how you may cross paths again."

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June 16, 2003 10:50 AM

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